(Cincinnati) -- Streetcar supporters plan to put a Charter amendment on the ballot in Cincinnati before the spring, forcing the City to continue with the streetcar project.  Ryan Messer says a petition is the last thing they want to do.  He says they're confident an audit will prove canceling the project will be about as costly as finishing it, and City Council will move to resume work.

Monday afternoon, an attorney for the group sent a letter to Mayor John Cranley, explaining their plans.  View Document

It will take about 5,700 signatures to put the streetcar on the ballot again.  But, Messer says they can collect more than twice that many, because they already have more than a thousand volunteers signed up to circulate petitions.

The petition would be for a proposed Charter amendment, calling on the city to complete the first phase of the streetcar.  With enough signatures, there could be a special election in the spring.

But, City Council and the Mayor could kill the streetcar long before then, and then the Federal Transit Administration would want to be repaid.  The federal government has granted about $45 million for the project.  Messer admits, even if voters demand the streetcar be built, the feds may lose interest.  He says project supporters have been in touch with the FTA and are confident grant money could return if the streetcar is killed, and then resurrected by voters.

There are four members of City Council who have voiced support for the project, and five who are against, or leaning against it.  Last week, Council voted to put the work on hold, until they could get a second opinion on the cost of canceling it as opposed to completion.  They rejected a report from the previous administration indicating the two costs were very close together.

The Federal Transit Administration has given the City until December 19th to make a decision.  If the project is stopped, the FTA will require about $45 million in grants returned. 

Streetcar supporters plan to begin training petition circulators Tuesday night in Over-the-Rhine.  If they can force the issue onto the ballot, it would be the third time the project has come before Cincinnati voters.  The previous issues were designed to stop the project.  Both failed.